Most European countries back seal products ban

30th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

A recent meeting attended by 27 European Union states ambassadors reveals that most member states favour an embargo on importing seal-related products.

BRUSSELS – Most European countries favour a total ban on importing seal-related products, diplomatic sources said Saturday ahead of a key European Parliament vote on the issue next month.

At a meeting of ambassadors of the 27 European Union states Friday, most of the countries present came out in favour of such a ban, mainly because of Canada's controversial slaughtering methods, an official said.

"One has the impression that the European states are ready now to choose this option," the source added.

The meeting had only an advisory status, with a final decision on EU policy set to be taken at a later date by the member states and the multinational body.

But if the EU were to pass such a ban, it could set the stage for a showdown with Canada at the World Trade Organisation.

Support for such a ban was not unanimous at Friday's meeting, said one diplomatic source: seven, mostly Scandinavian or Baltic countries made it clear they would not back such an embargo, said the source.

Those countries were Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and Bulgaria. Denmark traditionally supports Greenland over its seal culls, while Finland and Sweden also hunt seals.

Talks to try to find common ground on the issue are due to begin Monday in Brussels ahead of the 22 April  European Parliament vote on the issue.

But in early March, a European Parliament committee came out in favour of a total ban.

The proposed ban would only allow for rare exemptions, such as in the case of Inuit or other indigenous communities who practiced small-scale, easily monitored hunts in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia.

An alternative proposal that would have allowed imports where they could be certified as having come from seals killed in a more humane fashion than takes place in Canada, appeared to have been rejected.

One European diplomat said that it was too difficult to regulate the hunting methods on the ground when it came to the large-scale hunts carried out in Canada.

"We're very happy," said Adrian Hiel, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). "It looks good for us so far as the chances of an import ban in the EU are concerned."

Groups such as IFAW have fiercely criticised the Canadian seal hunt as unnecessarily cruel.

The Canadian government counters that the 350-year-old hunt is crucial for some 6,000 North Atlantic fishermen who rely on the seal hunt for up to 35 percent of their total annual income.

Canada's Fisheries Minister Gail Shea has made it clear that if the EU did try to enforce such a ban they would take the issue to the WTO.

Sealers taking part in Canada's controversial yearly hunt slaughtered 19,411 seals so far this year, reaching their full kill quota, Canadian fisheries officials said Thursday.

Canada hopes that requiring training for sealers on how to humanely slaughter seals, legislating standards for seal products and taking measures to safeguard the species will silence critics of the hunt.

AFP / Expatica

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